Jeff Crotto ARA’s 62nd president: Embracing technology and creating awareness about rental
By Erin Jorgensen
January 2, 2024
At the conclusion of The ARA Show™ 2024 in New Orleans, Jeff Crotto, CERP, president, All About Events, Jacksonville, Fla., will become the 62nd president of the American Rental Association (ARA).
Crotto founded the company in the fall of 2010 and assists his general manager in overseeing the day-to-day operations of the event rental company. The company started out in a 10-ft.-by-10-ft. storage unit and, after a few moves over the years, is now in a 35,000-sq.-ft. facility and has about 50 employees.
The company’s business development manager, operations manager and warehouse manager, as well as an administrative assistant who handles human resources, payroll and accounting functions all report to Crotto, who also serves as the “face” of the company at networking and other community events.
Crotto served as ARA Region Three director from 2019-2021 and was a member of the ARA Executive Committee in 2021 and 2023. He served on the ARA of Florida board in several positions including president and vice president. He has attended The ARA Show since 2010, and was a member of The ARA Show Task Force from 2016-2018. He also served on the ARA Event Rental Shared Interest Group in 2015-2016, the ARA Volunteer Recognition Awards Committee in 2017 and the Event Rental Advocacy Group since 2021.
Crotto spoke with Rental Management about becoming ARA’s 62nd president, the evolution of his event rental business, challenges the association faces for the future and more. An edited version of that conversation follows.
Rental Management: You have been involved in ARA leadership for several years and All About Events has been an ARA member since 2011. Why is this important to you and your company?
Jeff Crotto: I often tell people that our business’s growth and my professional growth is almost entirely attributed to our involvement with ARA, at the state and national level, and my peer group. My team has made connections within ARA who they reach out to or ask me to reach out to when they have a question about an issue we are trying to resolve. Numerous members have opened their stores to me and my team for store visits, even local competitors. In turn, we have done the same because I am sure others out there could learn something from the way we do things.
Rental Management: What have you learned in this last year as ARA president-elect?
Crotto: Having recently completed a term on the national board of directors, I had a pretty good idea of what was involved, but as president-elect I had to get more involved in crafting policy and making decisions on all our behalf. This truly is a member-driven organization and this year has really driven that point home with me. All of the products and services that are created by ARA staff are ideas or solutions to problems that come out of work groups, task forces or some other member-led group that came together and identified an issue. The officer team and board then vetted the idea and, if necessary, provided funding to make that product a reality.
Rental Management: How would you describe All About Events?
Crotto: We are a full-service rental store. We rent tents, tables, chairs, linens, china, glassware, flatware, staging, flooring and more. Our specialty is tented events of all sizes, particularly weddings. Weddings make up over 50 percent of our business. I started the business in 2010 out of a 10-ft.-by-10-ft. storage unit and it has grown to the largest locally owned event rental company in northeast Florida. We currently are a team of about 50 people. We operate out of two spaces. Our primary facility is 27,000 sq. ft. and a secondary facility about five minutes up the road is 7,500 sq. ft. where we process our linens and have some overflow storage.
Rental Management: What sets All About Events apart from other rental stores in the area? What is your secret sauce?
Crotto: My background is in customer service — every job I have ever had is taking care of clients, or managing and training people who are taking care of clients. I expect our team to take care of clients to the best of their ability and that belief permeates everything we do. Our clients always get their call answered, a friendly voice on the phone and a quote in a timely manner. We get countless messages throughout the year about how a member of our team went above and beyond for them. This has earned us a loyal following in our area.
Rental Management: How has your experience working in smaller rental operations prepared you for where you are today?
Crotto: I worked for a couple of small rental stores prior to starting All About Events, the primary one for about five years. Additionally, I think starting All About Events from scratch was super helpful as well. When you work in a smaller rental operation, everyone has to do everything. It has made me very hands-on at times, which I think my team loves and hates equally. I can install or put together anything we rent, so I can “walk the walk” so to speak, so that helps in many facets of the business, like coaching people, where they can tell I know what I am talking about. It also helps with purchasing. I know the different pain points that our team encounters, so it makes sense to me when someone creates a better way to do something or a product that will improve efficiency.
Rental Management: What key challenges do you see for your business in 2024?
Crotto: The two main challenges I see for our business moving forward is how we integrate technology more into how we do things and how we react to being “the hunted” in our market. There is so much technology available out there, whether that be the innovations our rental software company has made, RFID technology, increased mechanization that makes our delivery teams more efficient, or how can artificial intelligence (AI) be leveraged. These are all issues we need to address in 2024 and beyond. This is a place where our network of ARA friends will come in handy. The other challenge is that for our entire history, we have been chasing others and I feel like we are now in a place where our competitors are coming after our clients and being more aggressive to earn their business. We have to be mindful of this and work even harder to earn our clients’ loyalty.
Rental Management: What do you see as the challenges facing the association moving forward?
Crotto: Externally, I think we still have an awareness problem. Our job as officers, as a board and as an association, is to help spread the word, so when people need tables for a backyard party or need to complete a DIY project, they think of rental. It’s really that simple, but deciding how to spend our resources and energy to do it, is the hard part. I think between the ARA staff and the ARA board of directors, we have a very smart group to do so.
Rental Management: You were the ARA Region Three director. Now you’ve had a year as president-elect. Next year, when you look back on your year as president, what will make you feel that you had a successful year?
Crotto: There are a few things that would make this year feel successful. First, if The ARA Show in New Orleans is another successful show, that will be a great start. Secondly, the ARA has taken on some really large projects over the last few years which is very exciting. This will feel like a successful year if we see increased usage by our members when these awesome products are rolled out. The staff creates a lot of cool products and services, but they are woefully underutilized by our members. And lastly, the ARA officers and board always have issues to deal with and problems that arise throughout the year. I will feel successful if we, as a board and association, continue to embrace technology and the changes that it brings.
Rental Management: Why, in your opinion, should people attend The ARA Show?
Crotto: The ARA Show is like no other show I have ever attended. You can take in a full day or more of education, meet with hundreds of vendors, see their equipment, ask questions about it and then attend networking opportunities like no other place. You will make connections with other rental store owners and vendors that will come in handy for the rest of your career. This industry is like no other and that all starts at The ARA Show.
Rental Management: As the incoming ARA president, what message would you like to give to your peers?
Crotto: I am extremely humbled and excited for the opportunity to be the next ARA president. I did not get involved with ARA thinking I’d like to be president one day. I raised my hand to volunteer for the ARA of Florida board over a decade ago and just continued raising my hand and saying yes when asked to help out. I encourage everyone reading this to get involved with ARA. If you don’t want to be on a state chapter board, just go to a local event. Go to the education that is provided at The ARA Show or your local chapter. It sounds cliché, but I guarantee you that you will always get more out of it than you give.
All About Events
Facility: The main building is 27,000 sq. ft. and a secondary 7,500-sq.-ft. facility is used for processing linens and overflow storage. The company occupies 35,000 sq. ft. total, but is “busting at the seams,” according to Crotto.
Inventory: Event equipment including tents, tables, chairs, linens, china, glassware, flatware, staging, flooring and more.
Staff: About 50 employees.
History: All About Events was founded in 2010 as an independent event rental business located in a 10-ft.-by-10-ft. storage unit. Jeff Crotto, CERP, president, started the business from scratch and has built the company to what it is today. In 2019, All About Events was recognized on the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S. list.
“I started All About Events in September 2010. Originally, the inventory of the business was housed in a 10-ft.-by-10-ft. storage unit. I remember driving there after our first event and calculating the diagonal of a 10-ft.-by-10-ft. cube, so I could figure out if the longest poles in the 20-ft.-by-20-ft. tent we owned would fit in a 10-ft.-by-10-ft. unit or if I had to get the larger unit. I stored that one tent and the tables and chairs we owned in that unit. From there, we moved into an 800-sq.-ft. storage unit where I could safely park our enclosed trailer inside. We stored all the inventory around the perimeter of the unit,” says Crotto.
“We were in that space for about six months. During that time, we purchased more tents and other items like dance floors, china, glassware and linens. After six months, we moved into an office warehouse unit that was 1,500-sq.-ft. I quit my full-time job and leased that unit on the same day. To say I was nervous was a tremendous understatement, but the business immediately took off. I could answer the phone anytime it rang and respond to clients quickly. Over the next five years, we continued to purchase more inventory, expand the size of our warehouse and grow our team. When we finally moved out of that complex, we occupied about 10,000 sq. ft.,” Crotto says.
“In the spring of 2016 we moved into our current facility, which incidentally, was directly across the street from our old facility,” Crotto says. “The current space is made up of two buildings that are over 27,000 sq. ft. total. We have a large showroom that our sales team does a great job decorating. We originally leased the space, but completed the purchase in early 2021. About six years ago we decided we needed to bring our linen processing in-house. To do this, we added additional space to accommodate the necessary equipment and utility demands of linen processing. This location is five minutes from our main office and houses our linen processing and some overflow storage.”